Editor's Note: Stewart-Rodriguez is renovating a 500-year-old home in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the historic registry, projects such as these can be equally inspirational and challenging. This project is just about wrapped up, but here Fernando Rodriguez talks about first seeing the home and being inspired to design. Follow along as he takes this project from inspiration to completion.
It was a sunny morning in Old San Juan. For a project of this magnitude we always do first site visits as a team. It’s a fun road trip that everyone looks forward to. It sets the tone for creating a sense of unity and commitment to the project. Communication between departments is critical to the success of any project.
At this historic home, big heavy wood doors with beautiful vintage hardware and iron framed windows welcome you inside. Just as we opened the massive solid doors, all senses were awakened. You could feel the air ventilation of the open inside courtyard. Our minds were moving in all directions, unable to focus on just one thing. The whole team gasp as we looked at each other like kids in a candy store. This was going to be fun.
We started opening every door and window in each room. As the house had been closed for a while, the humidity and water problems in the ceiling gave the house a funny smell. We had seen pictures of this home before when it was furnished. But looking at it unfurnished with no art on the walls gave the spaces a different kind of beauty that we hadn’t been prepared for.
As I took my time through each room, taking notes and pictures, it became clear to me that this journey was going to be a unique experience and that I was going to enjoy every second!
We spent hours studying the light from the morning sun that poured in through the clear glass pane windows reflected on the gorgeous Italian black and white checked marble floors. You could feel the energy trapped through the years; I kept wishing that the walls would tell me secrets from another time; this house has so much history.
When we left for the day, I already knew what we had to do. My instincts kicked in, and I could feel the direction we needed to follow. This renovation would be like no other. Usually you want to change things around, make rooms bigger, start with a zero-base line. For this property, it was just the opposite. A landmark building with so much cultural heritage, I felt that the direction was going to be to preserve as much as possible. It required us to do our homework and research as much as possible – from the way people lived 450 years ago to the last owners.